If you can’t stomach the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, think about James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Or cast your vote with Viola Liuzzo in mind.
It would be easy to become jaded by the insanity of this election cycle and decide to sit this one out. You may be a young person who doesn’t see anything in these candidates’ messages which speaks directly to you. Or you may view the major party candidates as so disingenuous you’re considering casting a protest vote for a third-party candidate.
I submit to you that neither is a viable option. Every election is an opportunity to make your voice heard. Voters in Cobb County did so recently when they sent Commission Chairman Tim Lee packing, in part because of his lack of transparency regarding the Atlanta Braves stadium deal.
And every election is a chance to exercise a hard-earned right. James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were attempting to register African-American voters in Mississippi when they were beaten and shot to death by the Ku Klux Klan. Schwerner and Goodman were young men in their 20s who came from up North to help register black voters during Freedom Summer in 1964. Chaney, a native Mississippian, had grown weary of conditions in his state, where he and other African-Americans were relegated to second class citizenship.
A year later, near Selma, Alabama Viola Gregg Liuzzo was murdered by Klan members who saw her driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. Liuzzo and her companion, Leroy Moton, were Southern Christian Leadership Conference volunteers helping to register black voters, who were routinely threatened and intimidated at the polls. Moton survived the attack by pretending to be dead. Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was shot in the face just shy of her 40th birthday.
Whenever I think about not voting, I remember something Rev. C.T. Vivian, a longtime civil rights activist now in his 90s, told me about why he and other protestors believed so deeply in what they were doing: “We did it to fulfill our humanity.”
When you think about it, that’s not so different from today’s freedom fighters, who have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner to name a few. Voting in local elections ensures that the people who believe the same as we do lobby to improve police training and hire more officers who are sensitive to the needs and concerns of the communities they serve.
We are facing the most important presidential election in our nation’s history. Not voting on Nov. 8th shouldn’t be an option.